This story showed up on the internet on March 25 of this year and I marked a printout as good column material. But, for reasons I will try to explain, the subject matter caused me to “kick the can down the road,” which is one of the most popular clichés of the day.
The headline says “Why You Procrastinate (It Has Nothing to Do With Self-Control)” and the subhead reads, “If procrastination isn’t about laziness, then what is it about?”
The article was written by Charlotte Lieberman and was published in The New York Times.
Explaining the origin of the word, she wrote that it is derived from the Latin verb “procrastinare” which translates as “to put off until tomorrow.” But it also is derived from the ancient Greek word “akrasia” — “doing something against our better judgment.”
Lieberman wrote, “Self-awareness is a key part of why procrastinating makes us feel so rotten. When we procrastinate, we’re not only aware that we’re avoiding the task in question, but also that doing so is probably a bad idea. And yet, we do it anyway.”
Dr. Fuschia Sirois, professor of psychology at the University of Sheffield, wrote, “It doesn’t make sense to do something that you know is going to have negative consequences. People engage in this irrational cycle of chronic procrastination because of an inability to manage negative moods around a task.”
In short “We procrastinate because of bad moods.”
Lieberman logically said that “if it seems ironic that we procrastinate to avoid negative feeling, but end up feeling even worse, that’s because it is.”
A professor of marketing at the UCLA Anderson School of Management, psychologist Dr. Hal Hershfield, explained that “We really weren’t designed to think ahead into the further future because we need to focus on providing for ourselves in the here and now.”
When we procrastinate, parts of our brains actually think that the tasks we’re putting off — and the accompanying negative feelings that await us on the other side — are somebody else’s problem, Hershfield said.
Lieberman wrote that “at its core, procrastination is about emotions, not productivity. The solution doesn’t involve downloading a time management app or learning new strategies for self-control. It has to do with managing our emotions in a new way.”
One option is to forgive yourself in the moments you procrastinate. In a 2010 study, researchers found that students who were able to forgive themselves for procrastinating when studying for a first exam ended up procrastinating less when studying for their next exam.
Over time, chronic procrastination has not only costs on productivity, but measurably destructive effects on our mental and physical health, including chronic stress, general psychological distress and low life satisfaction, symptoms of depression and anxiety, poor health behaviors, chronic illness and even hypertension and cardiovascular disease.
I had been feeling fine, my head in a happiness zone, until I read that.
But the end result was that I picked up the aging pieces of paper today and typed up this column after a delay of only two and a half months. Now I feel great with a sense of accomplishment.